Something I do as an Organization Development professional and a Life Coach is journaling. Not so much that I become a navel-gazing moron, but I write down enough so I can sort things out in my head.
All OD pros do it. We’re taught to journal as part of the training. It becomes second nature to all of us.
Journaling helps me to clear my mind; express my creativity; know myself better.
When I know myself I can see how I am influenced by and how I influence the world around me. I can learn what brings me joy, or sadness. I can learn where my triggers or “buttons” are and even the responses I have to those “buttons.”
I learn my programming.
But it’s more than just knowing. It’s also being able to contemplate why. Why am I programmed this way? Why is it I love the smell of rosemary? Why does the color blue make me so happy?
And why, for example, don’t I like it when my kids’ playing hits a certain volume or pitch?
I gave myself time to write it down. And I learned that once a certain volume and pitch is reached, even if it’s laughter, someone gets hurt soon after. Crying and yelling starts. And I end up stomping up (or down) the stairs yelling and mad that they can’t just play together without someone getting hurt.
But now that I know all this – the button and response – it means that I can consciously watch for the trigger. In fact, the more I journal and contemplate I can even watch for the finger about to push the button.
Once I can do any of that I can then consciously change the response.
Journaling isn’t just for psychologists or organization development professionals. Journaling isn’t even just for adults. Children also benefit from writing down their thoughts.
Children’s journaling doesn’t have to be just writing. Poems and essays are great, and so are drawings, collages, stream of conscious lists. Journaling builds empathy and gratitude in children. It brings what they know subconsciously up into conscious realizations.
Journaling gives children a safe way to express negative feelings. Children can write out stories about bad days or rotten experiences. They can sketch out scripts to test conversations they might have with a classmate who is picking on them.
Journaling helps them play with mental creativity. Drawing, writing scripts, creating comic strips. This kind of creative self-expression can also help children heal from physical and emotional damage.
This kind of healing through self-expression is part of the reason why those fancy adult coloring books are so incredibly popular right now. Coloring, collage, and doodling all have the effect of lowering stress, increasing focus, and developing mindfulness in both adults and children.
Usually I just use a notebook as my journal. I go to the local bookstore and pick out a book that speaks to me. I let the kids pick out whatever speaks to them.
You have to love the journal you are using. You need to want to carry it with you all the time. You have to love the feel of it in your hand and the look of it as it sits on your desk or on your bedside table.
If this is your first time journaling you might need a journal that is also a little bit of a guide. This new one called The Connected Hearts Journal put together by Sumitha Bhandarkar is actually one that combines a journal for parents and a journal for kids.
It has questions that prompt introspection and deeper thinking, helping me to get to know myself better as a parent and my boys to get to know who they are. Especially for my tween, who is right smack in the middle of becoming someone new.
The Connected Hearts Journal also has a sharing section, but still allows for my boys to keep their own secrets. It lets me tell them how much I care for them and gives them the chance to figure out where their own strengths lay.
Children don’t have the experience to be introspective or to make connections into their subconscious without someone to help them. You don’t have to use a journal like this, but for those of us who don’t have a lot of experience teaching kids about writing, a journal like this helps to guide them into being able to more freely express themselves in a safe and private environment.
Even if you just get a regular spiral-bound notebook, start journaling. The benefits are worth the time. Even if you just have 10 minutes once or twice week journaling can lower your anxiety and help you to better understand yourself.